Unemployment has ravaged the U.S. economy. People struggle everywhere, exhausted by the collapse that destroyed their lives. Benjamin Cade is an expert in cognition, and before the flatlined economy caught up to him, he earned his living as a university instructor. Now, without income, he joins the millions defaulting on their loans in his case, the money he borrowed to finance his degrees. But there are consequences. Using advances in cognitive science and chemical therapy, Ben's debtors can reclaim their property his education. The government calls the process Repossession Therapy. The data Ben's repossession will yield is invaluable to those improving the indexing technology, a remarkable medical advance that has enabled the effective cure of all mental disorders. By disassembling his mind, doctors will gain the expertise to assist untold millions. But Ben has no intention of losing his mind without a fight, so he begins teaching in the park, distributing his knowledge before it's gone in a race against ignorance.
And somewhere in Ben's confusing takedown, Chimpanzee arrives. Its iconography appears spray-painted around town. Young people in rubber chimpanzee masks start massive protests. As Ben slowly loses himself, the Chimpanzee movement seems to grow. And all fingers point to Ben.
In this disturbingly believable near-future dystopia, a "New Depression" has impoverished America, and people who default on their college loans have their educations neurologically "repossessed." Such is the plight of Benjamin Cade, an unemployed Ph.D., whose default was inspired by his desire to purchase a home with his wife, a professor. When Cade decides to teach a free class in rhetoric while he is still intellectually capable, he becomes a "new Socrates" to members of an anti-authoritarian underground who use simulation technology called "chimping" to preserve his disappearing knowledge and share it with others. Bradley (Noise) injects his tale with a paranoid 1984 vibe through the elaboration of the Homeland Renewal Project, a government program that employs the indigent to spy on the populace. Readers will identify strongly with Cade, whose increasing realization that he is only a powerless pawn alternately pushed around by Homeland Renewal, the rebel underground, and other social and political forces beyond his control adds gravitas to the novel's grim mantra: "We are not in charge.' "